About Me

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Indialantic, Florida, United States
I enjoy photography when traveling, canoeing or hiking. Sometimes I combine a hike with geocaching.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trip to Sanibel Island

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It took about 4.5 hours to get to our hotel, the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa. Google Map routed us through small highways. We drove by this historic hotel in Yeehaw Junction.

  The hotel was first rate with a shallow pool that is great for kids. The Marriott property covers 85 acres with the main hotel and then two other towers. There must be 3 pools,6 restaurants, a fitness room and a mile long jogging trail.

We went out to eat on Captiva Island at the Keylime Bistro. The food was good but the service was not the greatest and it was very expensive.  We went in the Bubble Room just to look  and they were getting ready to close at 9 pm. The Bubble Room had all kinds of crazy memorabilia. It is worth the visit.  The restaurants all have very early closing hours. The NoSeeUms and mosquitoes were very bad during dinner and also at the Marriott pool.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stefan and I went to Sanibel Island to go biking. We parked at the Lighthouse Beach park at the east end of Perriwinkle Drive.   We biked a total of about 10 miles.  We had lunch at Schnapper's Hots Char-Grill.  It was good but they had outside seating and there were a whole lot of flies. The bike paths are great on Sanibel.  There must be 20 miles of bike trails.  The cars look out for bikers very well when crossing streets. A good summary of the beaches can be found at: Sanibel-Captiva Beaches.

Friday, June 11, 2011

Stefan and I went to the Edison & Fords Winter Estates. It was a photographers paradise and exceeded my expectations. There are 20 acres of gardens. Usually these places are dark and musty experiences (like Hemingway house on Key West). There are many other tour offerings but we purchased the Complete Tour. This included an audio of the tour. You cannot actually go inside the Edison and Ford houses.  They have the doors open with glass on the bottom half of the door way to keep people out. The interesting part of the tour really is not the houses but the gardens. There are many varieties of plants that I have never seen before. There are a lot of orchids, a variegated pineapple plant and many other flowers. Others that I have seen are the largest that I have ever seen. Finally after finishing the gardens area we returned to the other side of the road that splits the property and toured the laboratory. This was a big disappointment because they we doing some work and all the instruments and tools that you see in pictures were removed.  There is a museum with historic artifacts that were very interesting. There are a few pictures below but many more at Flickr. See the website http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org

Saturday, June 12, 2011

We planned to go to the the Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve and a beach today.  We decide to go to Bowmans Beach first.  It was much better that expected. There was plenty of prepaid parking ($2 per hour) and bath rooms, outside showers to rinse off with. There was a short walk from the parking lot to the beach which was through a preserve area including a bridge over a lake. The vegetation above the beach was very natural and undisturbed. The beach was not crowded at first and gorgeous.  The water was very pleasant and the sand soft with some shells to look through.  There were good shells to be found by snorkeling just off the beach. We did not stay as long as were would have like because we still wanted to go to the Ding Darling NWP. Some other other pictures of Sanibel can be found on Flickr

We took the 4 mile ($5) drive through the preserve and it was disappointing. We should have just stayed at the beach.  We only saw a couple of birds. One was very interesting, however.  The
educational building was okay but not great either.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Camping at Alexander Springs, FL

We left to go camping on this Memorial Day weekend about 2 pm and we made it to the campground in about two and a half hours. It was not a bad drive at all. I had made a camping reservation back when it was still cool out. I should have known better. Especially when Claudia reminded me beforehand about how hot it was supposed to be. Well, it was indeed already too hot. And too many bugs. It had been very dry and ticks were crawling up our legs and the tent before we even had it up.  Brad,  Stefan and I just got the tent up in time before the storm hit.  First rain in months.  We got a bit soggy but not much since we had put up the 10x10 canopy with bug screen just in time.  We had about  4 square feet that was dry under the canopy as we cooked Macaroni and cheese. It is my specialty.

We got our showers and finally went to bed.  In the morning Stefan and I went down to the spring early.  Brad was  still sleeping.  It was completely peaceful. The lighting was difficult but I took a few pictures and we went back to the campsite to wake up Brad and to eat breakfast. We planned to go canoeing in the morning.

They rent canoes right in the park and they were not recommending paddling one way with pickup. Apparently the river is somewhat blocked by vegetation. We ended up paddling to the first bridge and  paddling back. The river was very shallow for the most part and a  good deal of some kind of vegetation.  It took about an hour and forty five minutes. It cost $16 to rent the canoe for 2 hours. Two hours was enough on a hot day.  By the time we got back to the spring it was overrun with noisy people. It is good that they do not allow alcohol except at the campsites. They seemed to check all coolers going down to  the picnic area and the spring.

We went back to the campsite for lunch and Stefan and I went for a swim in the spring to cool off.  Brad did not want to go. He was so miserably hot he could not move.  When we got back from swimming we were very hot and the deer flies would not leave us alone.  We finally had enough and packed up and went home.

Too bad.  I wanted to hike St. Francis trail and go to Mount Dora and check out a micro brew pub called Mount Dora Brewing which is located at 405 S. Highland St.. Another time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

7-day Western Carribean Cruise on the Carnival Dream

Saturday, April 30, 2011
We arrived at the Carnival Dream at Port Canaveral, FL around noon on Saturday.  The cabins are not available until after 1 pm so went up to the main pool deck. We were very hungry by this time and had lunch at the buffet at the main pool area.  Then we went for a swim in the pool which is saltwater. This was one of the few tines that we did not have a problem getting a chair.  It was a pleasant afternoon and it was very relaxing.  We ordered a tropical drink from a passing waitress. It was tasty and real strong but priced reasonably at $7.75. A second one was not required. Our expectations was that the drinks would be outrageously priced. They restrict what drinks can be brought on board and thinking the prices would be high I brought some bourbon in a Rum Runner. They did not detect this when they scanned the luggage.  But I did not even really drink the bourbon. I was just too busy most if the time. They do allow a 12 pack of soda to be brought on board but they really want you to buy a soda card that allows unlimited soda.  We hardly drink soda but heard other people complain that if you ask for a soda in a lounge, for example, they hardly ever get around to delivering it to you.  The wait staff is more interested in making the money off the tip that is automatically included in alcoholic beverage orders. Also, we heard that some other passenger had got caught with a bottle of liqueur in their luggage and they called them down to have the liqueur removed from the luggage.  I think they just confiscate it and give it back at the end of the cruise.

Main pool area on the Lido Deck (10)
While on the cruise no cash is needed because all purchases are made using the Carnival identification card. The magnetic strip on the card contains your photo, slot machine balance, opening the cabin door and who knows what else. It is required to have the card to get on and off the ship in ports of call. When wearing a swimming suit it was a pain to keep track of the card. We kept seeing people with the cards on lanyards. Some people bought lanyards in a store on the ship but it tuned out that the casino provided a lanyard for free if you go to the customer service window.

The Stern Pool

Goofy playing golf
We had the 6 pm seating for dinner.  It was pretty casual the first night since there was no guarantee when the luggage would show up. The distribution of the luggage was quite the chore for the crew. They pretty much took control of all the elevators to deliver the luggage to the passenger cabins.  This went on for hours.  We kept walking up and down the stairs. The main pool deck is 10 and our cabin was 2. It was a lot of stairs. It must have been a big problem for handicapped people.   Like I mentioned, our cabin was on deck 2 all the way forward on the port side.  It is at the left side and just under the main auditorium called the Encore Lounge. We had been worried that the noise from the shows would keep us awake but we could not hear a thing.

Keeping Cool
Dinner was served in the Crimson restaurant. We had the same table and same wait staff each night. They were really excellent. The only nit tat I can possibly come up with was that they did not have espresso spoons. This seemed strange to us in a 5 star restaurant. The regular spoons cool off the espresso too fast.  One funny thing was that the wait staff was very protective of the butter dish which apparently gets stolen a lot. They could not hardly wait to get it off the table.

We were not seated at a large table with other groups. That may have been because we had a child in our group.   I had lasagna and a shrimp cocktail and fruit. There were only 4 shrimp so we ordered 2 more shrimp cocktails. It was all really good. The portions were small enough that it left room for dessert.

During the cruise I read Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars and Parties. It is about an American crew members life aboard a Carnival ship based in Miami. You can read my review of this book on by clicking the link below.

Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships (Travelers' Tales)Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships by Brian David Bruns

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Its a long way down in the atrium

At about 7:30 we went to the Club Caliente and they had a family fun party with silly dancing games. Stefan won first prize for the boys with his dancing skills. At 8 pm it was off to family show in the Encore lounge. It was funny with Butch the cruise entertainment director. But as the days on the ship passed these shows all started to seem the same and we got a bit bored with them. Getting a seat is highly competitive in this venue in particular. At 9 pm we went to listen to karaoke in the Burgundy lounge. It was real funny with mostly good singers. They have live musicians backing up the singers.

Check back for the next 6 days including excursions on Cozumel, Roatan, Costa Maya and Belize!!